HOMETOWN: Surrey, British Columbia
TRADITIONAL TERRITORY: Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen, Qayqayt and Tsawwassen First Nations.
Sukhmeet’s commitment to the environment became evident when he travelled to the Arctic and lived in Inuvik, Northwest Territories for six months. While he was 200 km above the Arctic Circle, Sukhmeet taught biology, physics, and environmental sciences to Indigenous youth at a local high school.
With a background in science, he explored the effects that climate change will have on human health. Upon meeting with Indigenous elders, Sukhmeet learned how climate change will impact the livelihood of the Inuit population living up North. When he listened to stories from these elders, he learned the true significance of how crucial it is to keep our environment in check.
Because of this change in the livelihood of the Indigenous population living in the North, Sukhmeet explored the impact this would have on their mental health. Specifically, this would result in solastalgia or the feeling of being away from home even when you are at home. With mental health already being a major concern in the North, this would exacerbate the situation.
Thus, Sukhmeet co-created Break The Divide to connect youth in the North to youth in southern Canada to explore the topics of climate change and its effects on mental health. By personifying the effects of environmental degradation in the Arctic, Indigenous youth can teach other youth about these risks so that they can work together to think of solutions.
Sukhmeet was instrumental in starting a Break The Divide chapter in Inuvik. He conducted focus groups with students to ensure that this idea would be sustainable and something that the community would benefit from. Since its implementation, there have been many video calls between students in Inuvik, Northwest Territories and students in Delta, British Columbia.
For his great work, Sukhmeet was awarded a scholarship by the Vancouver Foundation and the Michaëlle Jean Foundation called the 2017 Fresh Voices Relationship with Indigenous People in Canada Award.
Due to the success of Break The Divide, Sukhmeet has been recently selected as one of 1,000 leaders from around the world to represent Canada and travel to Singapore for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Conference. Here, he will discuss the positive impact that Break The Divide is having on the mental health of youth and how it is raising awareness about climate change.
Sukhmeet also served as his school’s BC Hydro School Ambassador. He worked on energy audits and planned initiatives to create a more environmentally-conscious school.
He also created the Surrey Youth Sustainability Network with a group of his friends to bring together youth from all secondary schools in the Surrey School District.
Currently, he is also working with a few of his professors from Western University to publish academic papers on the impact of climate change on the mental health of Inuit populations in the Arctic.